Open letter: the demand that artists disavow BDS is not a legitimate request

A museum in Aachen, Germany, has defied the city’s Mayor, who had said that respected artist Walid Raad should not be awarded the €10, 000 Aachen Art Prize, because, following the city’s inquiry, the artist had apparently “not distanced himself” from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Association of Friends of the Ludwig Forum for International Art must now find an alternative venue for the award ceremony due the Mayor’s intervention and effective ban.

Today, a group of artists, academics, Jewish and Palestinian human rights defenders have addressed an open letter to Marcel Philipp, Mayor of Aachen. Artists for Palestine UK is happy to reproduce the letter below, in English.

*To add your name contact: palestinianpanthers@riseup.net
*Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen

 

The Honorable Marcel Philipp
Mayor of Aachen
Rathaus
Markt
2058 Aachen
oberbuergermeister@mail.aachen.de

October 2019

Dear Mayor Philipp,

We were disconcerted to learn that your decision to withdraw the city’s support for the 2019 Aachen City Art Prize ceremony was based on “tip-offs” and “inquiries” about the political views of Walid Raad, the award winner. The political stance you feel it is urgent to denounce is the alleged, world-renowned Lebanese-American artist’s support for the civil society “BDS campaign.” As you are probably aware, many artists and intellectuals advocate for the recognition and implementation of legal rights, worldwide. Rather than recognize this advocacy as a form of democratic engagement, you regard Mr Raad’s commitment to the rights of Palestinians to be scandalous, and worthy of condemnation.

We, on the contrary, are scandalized that you’d make your approval of the city’s decision to honor Walid Raad dependant upon his disavowal of the BDS movement. Palestinians living in Israel, in the territory Israel occupies – in violation of international law –, and in the Diaspora have the same inalienable rights you yourself enjoy as a German citizen. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched in 2005 by a broad alliance of Palestinian civil society, which requested nothing more than that all “people with a sense of justice” make use of peaceful means to pressure the State of Israel to fulfill its obligations, as mandate by international law.   

To demand that Mr Raad renounce the BDS campaign is not a legitimate request. That would amount to tacitly endorsing the confused reasoning with which you justify your demand. You argue that both the German Parliament and the NRW State Parliament have found “the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic… because it essentially questions or denies Israel’s right to exist.” This is an extremely biased and erroneous assessment of the BDS, and of democratic debate.

To treat an assessment reached by a parliamentary majority like a royal decree, is fundamentally at odds with democratic practices. The gravity of the charge of anti-Semitism calls all of us ––and you as a political office-holder especially–– to be careful and considerate in our examination of this case, as well as independent in our position. 

Pointing out that a state’s has obligations towards those living inside its borders under human rights and international law and trying to persuade it to fulfill those obligations is not equivalent to questioning or denying its right to existence. To equivocate criticism of  Israeli policy toward the Palestinians with anti-Semitism, on the other hand, requires one to view Israel as identical to the Jewish collective, therefore making all Jews responsible for Israel’s policies –a view that in our opinion, and contrary to ours, does veer onto Antisemitism. The BDS campaign does not conflate the state of Israel’s policies with the Jewish population, either inside or outside Israeli borders – as your research should have shown. It targets institutions and businesses (often international, and not necessarily Israeli) with boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions, as many other civic society campaigns do. It is a campaign meant to pressure a state to recognize and honor the rights of those it discriminates against, it is not a campaign meant to discriminate against a state or its people, and it has nothing in common with the resentment of Jews, which is the essence of anti-Semitism. Given the dangerous increase of anti-Semitism in Germany today, we find it deeply disturbing that a German mayor would not be seriously willing to engage and debate this matter.

You were bothered by the thought of the City of Aachen awarding an artist who (by supporting the BDS campaign, as you claim) “opposes artistic and cultural exchange.” In fact, the BDS movement criticizes Israeli cultural institutions and individual artists (including non-Israelis) who justify and whitewash Israeli policies that violate international law – or downplay these policies in the service of Israeli public relations: In no way does that hinder artistic and cultural exchange. On the contrary, it makes this exchange more inclusive.

What is the significance of an award like the Aachen City Art Prize? The prize is intended to help make an artistically valuable oeuvre become better known and supported – and to promote appreciation for and debate about the work in Germany. An award like this contributes to artistic and cultural exchange.

Do you believe that by discrediting artists who support Palestinian rights – indiscriminately and without any serious examination – you are supporting artistic and cultural exchange?  

There are a great many reputable sources of information about BDS that you could have consulted before coming to your judgement, and deciding to withdraw the City of Aachen’s support for the 2019 prizewinner, Walid Raad. Here are two:

The Administrative Court of Cologne: The Administrative Court’s proceedings regarding the German-Palestinian Women’s Association versus the Federal City of Bonn http://www.justiz.nrw.de/nrwe/ovgs/vg_koeln/j2019/14_L_1765_19_Beschluss_20190912.html

The BDS Movement’s position on boycotting individuals  https://www.bdsmovement.net/news/bds-movement-position-boycott-individuals

As we have explained, your decision to withdraw support for Walid Raad as the 2019 winner of the Aachen City Art Prize lacks any basis.

We ask you to accept the jury’s proper decision to honor an excellent artist and his work with the Aachen City Art Prize and to not prevent the presentation ceremony being held on city property.

Yours sincerely,

BDS Berlin

BDS Initiative Oldenburg

Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg

ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien

Jewish Antifa Berlin

Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Palestinian Panthers Deutschland

Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism

Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar

Avi Berg, Berlin

Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.

Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin

Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich

Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg

Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin

Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB

Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin

Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin

Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München

Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London

Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin

Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin

Doris Ghannam, Berlin

Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin

Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München

Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin

Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo

Ellen Keller, München

Angela Klein, Köln

Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin

Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg

Marcella Lista, Kuratorin, Centre Pompidou

Anna Regina Mackowiak, München

Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin

Gabriele Martin, Berlin

Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal

Miranda Pennell, Künstlerin/Filmemacherin, UK

Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin

John Smith, Künstler/Filmemacher, UK

Sille Storihle

Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln

 

Offener Brief an den Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Aachen bzgl. des Kunstpreises für Walid Raad

October 2019

Sehr geehrter Herr Oberbürgermeister Philipp,

wie wir mit Befremden zur Kenntnis nehmen, sahen Sie sich nach „Hinweisen“ und „Recherchen“ zur politischen Haltung des designierten Preisträgers des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 Walid Raad veranlasst, die Unterstützung der Stadt für diese Preisverleihung zurückzunehmen. Ihre Recherchen ergaben, dass der international renommierte libanesisch-amerikanische Künstler die zivilgesellschaftliche Kampagne BDS unterstützt. Dass sich Herr Raad, wie viele andere Künstler*innen und Intellektuelle weltweit, für die Anerkennung und Umsetzung von verbrieften Rechten, in diesem Falle denen der Palästinenser*innen einsetzt, ist also in Ihren Augen der Skandal.

Wir empfinden es eher als skandalös, dass Sie Ihre Zustimmung zur Verleihung des Aachener Kunstpreises an Walid Raad davon abhängig gemacht haben, dass er sich von seiner Überzeugung distanzieren sollte: Auch die Palästinenser*innen – sei es in Israel, in dem von Israel völkerrechtswidrig besetzten Gebiet oder in der Diaspora – haben unveräußerliche Rechte – wie auch Sie sie als Bürger der Bundesrepublik genießen. Nicht mehr und nicht weniger konstatiert die 2005 von einem breiten Bündnis der palästinensischen Zivilgesellschaft ins Leben gerufene BDS-Kampagne und fordert „Menschen mit Gerechtigkeitssinn“ weltweit dazu auf, mit friedlichen Mitteln Druck auf den Staat Israel auszuüben, damit er seinen völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen nachkommt.

Zu einer Distanzierung von dieser Kampagne war Herr Raad selbstverständlich nicht bereit. Denn es hätte bedeutet, eine verworrene Argumentation stillschweigend zu unterschreiben, mit der Sie Ihr Ansinnen begründen. Sie verweisen darauf, dass sowohl der Bundestag als auch der Landtag NRW „in parlamentarischen Beschlüssen die BDS-Bewegung als antisemitisch eingeschätzt“ hätten, „weil sie im Kern das Existenzrecht des Staates Israel in Frage stellt oder negiert“.

Doch selbst wenn ein Parlament mehrheitlich zu einer Einschätzung gelangt, ist diese unserer Auffassung nach – unter demokratischen Bedingungen – nicht wie ein hoheitliches Dekret umzusetzen. Sie als politischer Funktionsträger oder wir als Bürger*innen sind in einer so ernsten Angelegenheit wie der Frage, ob jemand oder etwas antisemitisch ist, nicht aus der Verantwortung entlassen, selbständig zu prüfen und zu entscheiden.

Sobald wir das tun, fällt uns auf, dass ein Staat in seiner Existenz weder in Frage gestellt noch gar negiert wird, wenn man ihn an seine menschen- und völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen erinnert und mit gewaltlosen Mitteln versucht, ihn dazu zu bewegen, dass er diesen Verpflichtungen nachkommt. Wenn wir versuchen zu verstehen, was eine Kritik der israelischen Politik gegenüber den Palästinenser*innen mit Antisemitismus zu tun haben soll, fällt uns dazu nur ein: Tatsächlich könnte eine solche Kritik antisemitische sein, wenn sie Israel als jüdisches Kollektiv auffassen und Juden/Jüdinnen für die Politik Israels zur Verantwortung ziehen würde. Genau das tut BDS nicht, wie Sie sich unschwer bei Ihren Recherchen hätten vergewissern können. Die Kampagne fordert ausschließlich zum Boykott, zu Desinvestition und Sanktionen gegen Institutionen oder Unternehmen auf (nebenbei: häufig internationale, nicht unbedingt israelische). Mit Jüdinnen/Juden oder einem Ressentiment gegen sie, also mit Antisemitismus, hat das schlicht nichts zu tun. Wir empfinden es als sehr beunruhigend, wenn der Bürgermeister einer deutschen Stadt heutzutage, da ein zunehmender Antisemitismus tatsächlich zu verzeichnen ist, derart nachlässig mit diesem Thema verfährt anstatt sich seriös zu informieren und auseinanderzusetzen.

Sie ereifern sich, die Stadt Aachen könne doch nicht ausgerechnet einen Künstler auszeichnen, der sich (mit BDS, wie Sie behaupten) „gegen künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch stellt“. Auch hier sind Sie einem Gerücht aufgesessen. Wenn BDS israelische kulturelle Institutionen oder einzelne Künstler*innen (auch internationale) kritisiert, sofern diese die völkerrechtswidrige Politik Israels rechtfertigen, beschönigen oder sich in irgendeiner Weise in den Dienst der israelischen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit zur Verharmlosung dieser Politik stellen, so verhindert das logischerweise keineswegs den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch.

Was bedeutet eine Preisverleihung wie die des Aachener Kunstpreises? Wir nehmen an: Ein künstlerisch wertvolles Werk wird durch solch eine Preisverleihung noch breiter bekannt, wird gefördert – und fördert Wahrnehmung und Debatten hierzulande. Eine solche Preisverleihung trägt zum künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch bei.
Wir fragen Sie: Gedenken Sie, den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch dadurch zu fördern, dass Sie Künstler*innen, die für die Rechte der Palästinenser*innen eintreten, unbesehen und ohne seriöse Prüfung diskreditieren?

Neben der eigenen Urteilskraft stehen auch Ihnen seriöse Quellen zur Verfügung, die Sie bedauerlicherweise nicht konsultiert haben, bevor Sie sich dafür entschieden, sich für die Stadt Aachen vom diesjährigen Preisträger Walid Raad zurückzuziehen.

Hier einige dieser Quellen:

Verwaltungsgericht Köln: Beschluss in dem verwaltungsgerichtlichen Verfahren des Deutsch-Palästinensischen Frauenvereins e.V gegen die Bundesstadt Bonn – http://www.justiz.nrw.de/…/14_L_1765_19_Beschluss_20190912.…

BDS Movement Position on Boycott of Individuals – https://www.bdsmovement.net/…/bds-movement-position-boycott…

Wie wir gezeigt haben, entbehrt Ihre Entscheidung, sich von Walid Raad als Träger des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 zurückzuziehen, jeglicher Grundlage.

Daher fordern wir Sie auf, Ihre Entscheidung zu revidieren. Sie sollten einem exzellenten Künstler und seinem Werk, von der Jury vollkommen zu Recht ausgewählt, den Aachener Kunstpreis zuerkennen und der Überreichung in städtischen Räumen nicht im Wege stehen.

Mit besten Grüßen,

BDS Berlin
BDS Initiative Oldenburg
Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg
ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien
Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Palestinian Panthers Deutschland
Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism
Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar
Avi Berg, Berlin
Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.
Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin
Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich
Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg
Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin
Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB
Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin
Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin
Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München
Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London
Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin
Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin
Doris Ghannam, Berlin
Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin
Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München
Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin
Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo
Ellen Keller, München
Angela Klein, Köln
Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin
Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg
Anna Regina Mackowiak, München
Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin
Gabriele Martin, Berlin
Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal
Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin
Sille Storihle
Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln

Palestinian and Israeli Artists Urge Aurora: Don’t Play Israel!

Norwegian pop star Aurora is booked to play Tel Aviv on November 14th and 15th. Palestinian artists, and Israeli artists, have each launched appeals to the singer. 

Artists for Palestine UK is pleased to host both letters below.

Palestinian artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora 

It is with great regret we have become aware of your planned performance in Tel Aviv in November. You have quickly become one of the great new names in the international popular music scene, including among Palestinians and other Arabs. Regardless of your intentions, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv will be seen as endorsing Israel’s whitewash of its occupation and denial of human rights to Palestinians. 

Israel is intensifying its decades-old regime of oppression against Palestinians, especially its theft of Palestinian land and resources to build more illegal settlements and apartheid walls. UN investigators have concluded that Israeli occupation forces’ intentional targeting of journalists, medics, children and disabled people with sniper fire in Gaza “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Israel’s 12-year-old siege of Gaza has reduced it into an “unliveable” territory, according to the UN. Israel’s military occupation counts per-capita calories allowed into Gaza to keep the two million Palestinians there on the verge of starvation.

Given this reality, many celebrities, including Lana del Rey, Lorde and Natalie Portman, have cancelled scheduled events or performances  in Israel. As during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, such expressions of solidarity by artists sends the right message that they will not lend their names to covering up Israel’s oppression and that they stand with the oppressed Palestinians, including artists, who are not allowed to travel freely to share our art and culture.  

The people of Norway have been among the most supportive of Palestinian freedom. The LO Trade Unions Congress resolution of 2017 in support of our nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, for instance, was a very important international victory for us Palestinians. It mainstreamed boycott as a tool of Norwegian solidarity with the oppressed. And when more than 150 Norwegian artists endorsed the Palestinian, Israeli and international calls for boycott Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv in May this year, they demonstrated their moral commitment to do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality. 

You describe yourself as a “down to earth” personality, uncompromising and not to be pushed around by producers and the like. This sounds like somebody who would be inclined to side with the oppressed and downtrodden, as did Lana del Rey and Lorde, rather than siding with the oppressors and perpetrators of war crimes. 

You may be approached by a group called “Creative Community for Peace” (CCFP), an Israel lobby group that presents itself as an “independent” entertainment industry organization trying to convince you why crossing the Palestinian nonviolent picket line to perform in Tel Aviv is good for your career and the “right” thing to do. CCFP carefully hides from artists that it is actually a front group for StandWithUs (SWU), a long-established right-wing, anti-Palestinian, pro-Israeli settler lobby group with long-time ties to Israel’s far-right government.

We Palestinian artists appeal to you to stand with the thousands of artists worldwide who refuse to allow their art to art-wash Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid and thus to contribute to our peaceful struggle for freedom and rights.

Signed,

Shahd Abusalama, dancer

Raed Andoni, filmmaker 

Nai Barghouti, singer

Nabil Bey, musician, songwriter

Samir Eskanda, musician

Adnan Joubran, musician, composer

Remi Kanazi, poet

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Ramzi Maqdisi, actor 

Ahmed Masoud, author, playwright

Kareem Samara, musician

 

 

Israeli artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora,

We are Israeli artists, musicians, filmmakers, and authors, active for a just society here and for a better world. We respect and empathise deeply with your commitment to artistic independence and an artistic voice on pressing global issues. We would like to share our perspective on your planned concert in Israel. 

We, as Jewish Israelis who yearn to live in a peaceful, democratic society, recognise that there is no way to achieve that without ending our government’s oppression of millions of Palestinians. A society can’t be considered democratic, if millions have no vote and no say in the regime that rules them. Such is the situation in Israel, where millions of Palestinians are under military siege and occupation. 

Playing in Israel at this moment necessarily means making a political statement. On one hand, it would be wonderful to hear your message calling to action around pressing global issues. On the other, this message will be delivered in Tel Aviv, which Israel uses as means of public relations, to distract from its military occupation, apartheid policies, and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Palestinian people.

In Tel-Aviv itself Israel displaces the Palestinians of Jafa, vis-a-vis the Tel-Aviv-Jafa municipality, using economic and legalistic means, evicting families, demolishing homes, and neglecting and defunding whole neighbourhoods, in a process of gentrification that favours Jewish-Israelis over Palestinians.

We, as artists, can’t sit silent as our Palestinian counterparts suffer silencing, dehumanisation and violence, and we ask you to join us in speaking out. Palestinian artists have asked you to cancel your concert, and we strengthen their call.

Respectfully,

Meira Asher, sound and radio artist, educator

Avi Hershkovitz, filmmaker

Jonathan Ofir, conductor

David Oppenheim, artist, musician 

Timna Perets, filmmaker

Danielle Ravitzki, artist 

Ben Ronen, visual artist

Itamar Shapira, musician

Yonatan Shapira, musician

Professor Eyal Sivan, filmmaker, Amsterdam University of the Arts (AhK)

Hamutal Song, author, artist, journalist

Karen Zack, photographer 

Artswatch Palestine: April – July 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Our findings suggest that sniper bullets manufactured by Sierra were used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018″
Forensic Architecture, May 2019.
photo: Natchez Shooters Supplies

Art and Power

The submission of the research group Forensic Architecture to the 2019 Biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York included an extensive investigation into the use of tear gas and bullets manufactured by companies led by Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chair.

The companies’ products had been used against migrants at the US-Mexico border wall and in other states including Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait.

Subsequently, Forensic Architecture discovered new evidence that directly linked the weapons manufacturer to Israel’s violence on the Gaza ‘border’.  The evidence, reported HyperAllergic on 20th July, took the form of an ‘unexploded open-tip bullet in the sand surrounding the Al-Bureji protest camp near the border’The bullet was intact and matched the analysis that Forensic Architecture had conducted on ammunition manufactured by one of Kanders’ companies, Sierra Bullets.

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Open letter to UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019

 

Dear UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019,

Artists for Palestine UK has joined the call from Palestinians, and also from Israeli artists and Israeli human rights defenders, and from LGBTQI+ campaigners in Berlin, for participating artists to withdraw from Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019, in protest at the festival’s continued partnership with the Israeli embassy.

As you may know, the far-right Israeli government cynically exploits the arts to improve its image abroad and to distract from state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against millions of Palestinians on the basis of their identity. For this reason, Palestinians asked Pop-Kultur Berlin to end its partnership with the Israeli state.

Art matters. The arts should not be used to whitewash a regime whose apartheid character has become explicit and undeniable.

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Israeli artists: Boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival

We are proud to publish the following open letter from Israeli artists in support of the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival.

[Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen]

‘As Israeli artists, musicians, and filmmakers, we support the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019, given its complicity with Israel’s racist regime. 

So long as Pop Kultur continues to have the Israeli embassy as a partner, all appearances at the festival will be exploited by the Israeli government as part of its efforts to whitewash its occupation and rebrand itself through culture.

We recognise that there is an urgent moral need to end the Israeli government’s decades-long oppression of millions of Palestinians, and that boycotts rooted in international law and universal principles of human rights are a legitimate, nonviolent, time-honoured tactic. 

We are dismayed that the festival director last year wrongly condemned BDS as “antisemitic” in defending their partnership with the Israeli embassy. Even Avi Primor, himself a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, agrees that “the leitmotiv of the BDS movement is justice for the Palestinians”.  Continue reading

Boots Riley, Naomi Klein among 100+ figures demanding free speech on BDS movement for Palestinian rights

Over one hundred high-profile artists and public figures are expressing dismay at political repression against  the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, slamming “attempts in Germany to impose political conditions” on artists such as Talib Kweli (pictured).  In an open letter published in the Guardian (and copied below), a broad range of artists from all fields and genres signed but also figures  from the field of human rights including: Index on Censorship, Patrisse Cullors co-founder of Black Lives Matter, human rights lawyer and former judge Sir Stephen Sedley, and philosopher Judith Butler.

“We are shocked that Open Source Festival, Düsseldorf has disinvited black American rapper Talib Kweli, leading to the cancellation of his Germany tour, after he refused to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists who support Palestinian rights, particularly targeting black, POC and queer artists, comprise a shameful trend of censorship, anti-Palestinian repression, and attacks on freedom of conscience.

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Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Pratibha Parmar, Ken Loach and others say UK cinemas should boycott Israeli film festival Seret

In our letter published in the Guardian yesterday and copied below, 20 British filmmakers and writers including Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Ken Loach and Prahitbha Parmar criticise the hosting of an Israeli government sponsored film festival in the UK. 

The letter cites the findings of the recent UN report on Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza.  It compares celebrity and business protests against Brunei over its new anti-LGBT law, with those against Israel over its violence against the Palestinians.

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Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

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Judy Joo: Please stand with Palestinians

* In Gaza 97% of water is currently contaminated by sewage and/or salt due to the ongoing blockade of 1.7 million Palestinians living there (Oxfam)

Judy Joo is a chef, writer and restaurateur. We love the creativity of her work at London’s  Jinjuu — but we hate apartheid, so we’re hoping Joo will turn down the Israeli government-sponsored ‘Tel Aviv Round Tables’ food festival.  More than 70 chefs and food writers in the US are choosing to speak out against Israel’s violation of Palestinian land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Please join them Judy Joo!

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DJs, producers, electronic musicians join boycott of Israel en masse

Today a stream of DJs, producers, record labels, electronic musicians are speaking up for Palestine and endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel. Using the hashtag #DJsForPalestine, these artists and cultural producers say they are supporting the Palestinian call for boycott as a peaceful protest against the occupation, “for as long as the Israeli government continues its brutal and sustained oppression of the Palestinian people”.

This collective action follows the pattern of a similar wave of bands, including  Portishead and Wolf Alice, who came out in protest using the hashtag #ArtistsForPalestine, shortly after Israel’s massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza this May.

Caribou, the Discwoman collective, Laurel Halo, The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Tessela, Truants, Ciel, DEADBOY, FourTet, Room4Resistance and many, many more joined together for this action.   Some artists added personal messages, for example Ben Thomson / UFO explained:

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Artists call for boycott of Israel-hosted Eurovision 2019 – UK signatories

Artists, musicians and writers from 18 different  countries have published an open letter in the Guardian which condemns the purported hosting of Eurovision 2019 in Israel, saying that the contest should be moved to a non-divisive location, and – citing the recent killing of large numbers of Palestinian civilians – to a country with a better human rights record.
  • Personal statements by international artists can be found here.
  • In addition to the selection of international names in the Guardian, see the full list of British signatories attached to the letter here:

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Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Viggo Mortensen among 70+ artists demanding free speech on Palestine

Artists for Palestine UK is publishing (below) a longer version of the open letter published in tomorrow’s print edition of the Guardian, with the full list of signatories.

The statement responds to news that the award-winning band Young Fathers were invited, disinvited and re-invited to the Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany, following demands that they renounce their support for the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestinian rights. The band refused, and re-affirmed their support for human rights principles. Now, 79 artists, writers and producers from all fields of the arts in the UK, the US, Germany and beyond, plus public figures including Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis, speak out about what they say is an “alarming form of censorship, “blacklisting” and repression”.

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Young Fathers affirm support for Palestinian rights despite cancellation by German arts festival

Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany have asked Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers to declare themselves non-supporters of the Palestinian-led BDS movement for human rights, as a condition of appearing at the festival later this summer. In a statement on June 12, the festival announced the cancellation of the UK group’s concert, saying:

Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS. (…) The Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign. We have therefore decided to cancel the concert.

Today, Young Fathers have asked Artists for Palestine UK to publish the following statement :

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Artists join the boycott of Israel en masse

Following Israel’s massacre in Gaza in which snipers targeted thousands of unarmed Palestinian protestors,  also attacking medics, journalists, photographers and children – a coordinated wave of  bands have publicly endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel in support of Palestinian rights, and for freedom, justice and equality.
Here are sample tweets from Wolf Alice, Portishead, Reverend and the Makers, Slaves, Peace, Circa Waves, Nadine Shah and more – starting with the response from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) who initiated the call.
Follow the hashtag #artistsforpalestine
British artists and bands can add their name to the now more than 1,300 who signed the Artists Pledge for Palestine on this site.

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Award-winning director withdraws film from Seret London Israel Film & TV Festival

The writer-director of the acclaimed feature film ‘In Between’, one of the films programmed by the Seret London Israel Film & TV Festival,  is one of 36 filmmakers and others to have signed a letter published in the Guardian today saying that UK cinemas should “uphold basic ethical standards” and refuse to provide a platform to  “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”. Maysaloun Hamoud has also withdrawn her film.

According to its website, the festival, which is supported by the Israeli Embassy and the World Zionist Organisation, intends to reflect Israel as a “melting pot of cultures, religions and backgrounds”. But Hamoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said in a statement to Artists for Palestine UK:

“I do not want my film, or my name, to be used to portray an image of Israel as a “melting pot of cultures and religions”.

The arts, the filmmakers’ letter says, are “being employed to give an apparently acceptable face to a brutal reality”. They add that “Israel deliberately and routinely denies media freedom to Palestinians” citing  the targeting of Palestinian journalists and photographers by Israeli forces.

Shopping announce withdrawal from Pop-Kultur Berlin in solidarity with Palestinians

We are proud to publish to a statement from UK band Shopping, who today announce their withdrawal from Pop-Kultur Berlin festival in protest at its decision to accept support from the Israeli embassy in Germany. Last year, eight artists withdrew in protest for this same reason.

Their statement:
‘We will no longer be performing at Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin this August. After we were recently announced for the festival, we were contacted privately by Palestinian artists and human rights activists about the festival’s cooperation with the state of Israel, and how this serves to normalise and whitewash Israel’s military occupation and decades of oppression against the Palestinian people. We cannot in good conscience be part of that.


As a band, Shopping are and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism. We stand firmly against antisemitism and Islamophobia. For these reasons, and in harmony with the principles of the nonviolent, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, we affirm our solidarity with the Palestinian call for BDS.’

The Palestinian appeal to international artists, information, and artists’ statements 2017-18 can be found on a new website, Boycott Pop Kultur Festival.
#popkulturfestival #popkultur2018 #popkulturberlin #popkulturberlin2018
Photo: Jenna Fox

Film-makers call on cinemas to reject Israel-sponsored festival

Maxine Peake, Liam Cunningham, Juliet Stevenson and Helena Kennedy QC are among 36 filmmakers and others who have signed a letter  protesting the hosting of  the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival in UK cinemas, due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy.  The letter, published in Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian, says that cinemas are providing a platform for “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”.  Full letter and signatories below.
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Jamiroquai, will you stand with the Palestinians?

Dear Jamiroquai,

We write to ask you to cancel your concert in Israel. We do so knowing that band members are not indifferent to the situation in Palestine. In a 2008 interview, Jay Kay said, ‘Ask me something else; Ask me about the situation in Palestine’.

If we asked you about the situation in Palestine today, you’d probably know  that it has greatly deteriorated since 2008, with three prolonged bombing campaigns by Israel on Gaza. The besieged Strip is, according to the United Nations, ‘unlivable’, and there’s an ever expanding colonisation of land in the Palestinian West Bank. Continue reading

Morcheeba: Please don’t give comfort to the oppressor

Artists for Palestine UK is dismayed that despite the unlawful and calculated* massacre of 21  people (to date) during the march by refugees trapped inside Gaza – it appears that the duo that make up British trip-hop outfit Morcheeba, are set to entertain audiences in Tel Aviv next month. As we make our letter to Morcheeba public, we still hope that Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey will connect with Palestinian artists or organisations, or indeed with ourselves, before proceeding with business-as-usual under this deeply racist and brutal Apartheid regime.
*According to NGOs Human Rights Watch and B’tselem

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Artists to Lorde: individual messages of support

On 5 January 2018, more than a hundred international artists signed a letter to the Guardian in the UK in support of New Zealand singer Lorde’s decision to cancel her gig in Tel Aviv later this year.
Since then, some of those signatories have given APUK permission to publish the personal letters they’ve also written to Lorde.   We’re happy to share, amongst others, Brian Eno’s and Roger Waters’ moving expressions of solidarity and support, while Peter Gabriel’s message affirms the need for artists to stand up for human rights.  We’re also reproducing below some of the many messages artists have posted in support of Lorde on social media or via this site.

 

Brian Eno, musician

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